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Coronavirus-hit Ballymena care home failed to test our father or keep him in isolation, say grieving family


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Ivor McQuitty, who was a resident at Rose Court in Ballymena

Ivor McQuitty, who was a resident at Rose Court in Ballymena

Rose Court in Ballymena

Rose Court in Ballymena

Ivor McQuitty, who was a resident at Rose Court in Ballymena

A care home at the centre of a deadly Covid-19 outbreak failed to isolate a resident when he returned from hospital, his devastated family have claimed.

The family of Ivor McQuitty, who died from Covid-19 on May 2, have raised serious questions about infection control policies at Rose Court in Ballymena - including what they say was a lack of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

Runwood Homes, which owns Rose Court, has said that PPE has always been available at the home and that it has always adhered to official guidance throughout the pandemic, while a spokesman for the firm said Mr McQuitty "was cared for in a segregated area of a lounge with social distancing".

Care homes have continued to admit residents from hospital throughout the pandemic but have been advised throughout to assume that any resident coming from a hospital has Covid-19 and should be isolated.

Guidance from the Public Health Agency (PHA) states that when a resident is discharged from hospital "it is recommended that the individual still isolates for 14 days", even if they are not displaying symptoms of Covid-19.

Optimum isolation measures include caring for the resident in their own room, with the door kept closed as much as possible.

Mr McQuitty (84) was taken to the emergency department at Antrim Area Hospital on April 8 and 10 after falling at Rose Court.

On both occasions, he was sent back to the home after a number of hours at the hospital but without being tested for the virus. A diagnostic test for Covid-19, which costs in the region of £350, was never carried out by Rose Court.

His son, Greg, said he has been told his dad was allowed to spend time in a television room at the home after leaving hospital. He was admitted to Antrim Area Hospital on April 19, diagnosed with Covid-19 and never returned to Rose Court.

Mr McQuitty has also said he was informed by a member of staff that emergency measures were put in place after his father was diagnosed.

In a further blow, Runwood Homes has now contacted the grieving family to tell them they will have to pay for Mr McQuitty's room for the fortnight he was dying in hospital - despite the firm's boss, Gordon Sanders, receiving more than £30m in dividends since 2014.

"The trust paid the home £650 a week for my dad and dad paid a top-up from his pension of about £1,000 a month," said Greg.

"Runwood has been in touch to say they will be sending out a bill for us to settle - my father's bill was month-to-month and they're even including May 1. That's been the biggest kick after all of this. We have questions about what was happening in the home - my father was taken to hospital twice before he was admitted, and both times I spoke to the home afterwards and they told me he was in the television room.

"He was only tested the third time he was taken to hospital. I rang the home straight away and they told me they were putting emergency planning into place and they were getting PPE.

"The virus seems to have gone through the home like wildfire, I've been told 33 staff are off work isolating, they also said they have 15 residents in the home who are in hospital with Covid-19.

"We have a relative who also lived in the home and they died from Covid on the same morning as my father.

"We want to know why my father wasn't isolated properly when he was sent back from the hospital the first time - why wasn't he tested by the home or the hospital? I'm not medically minded, but it seems like there is some fault there."

Health officials have come under heavy criticism for the policies put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among care home residents and staff, including allowing care homes to admit residents from hospital without testing for Covid-19.

At the same time, there have also been concerns raised that some private care home providers did not put in place adequate measures to protect residents and their employees.

A spokesman from Runwood Homes, which posted a profit of £14.9m in its most recent accounts, up from £3.9m the previous year, said: "We would like to on behalf of the management and staff at Rose Court Care Home express our sincere condolences to the family of this much loved former resident.

"We can confirm, following his return from hospital, this gentleman was cared for in a segregated area of a lounge with social distancing adhered to fully given the increased risk of further falls and this gentleman's medical history.

"We will not be going into detail on such matters but can confirm the means in which the gentleman was cared for was in line with his best interests at the time and in line with Public Health guidance.

"The testing of residents is managed by HSC Trusts and not independent care homes as per Department of Health guidelines in Northern Ireland.

"We can confirm that as of today all residents in Rose Court Care Home have been tested for Covid-19 by Northern Trust as will be the case across all care homes across Northern Ireland.

"PPE was, and remains fully available at all times throughout this service.

"This is further clarified by Northern HSC Trust Covid-19 support visits where PPE was in correct and appropriate use in line with the Public Health Agency guidelines.

"A daily stock take of all PPE is also completed organisationally across all of our 75 services and we have never been without PPE. It is worth noting guidance has changed on a number of occasions since the commencement of the Covid-19 response.

"Runwood Homes Senior Living was one of the first providers to lock down services to visitors and take additional measures to protect our staff and residents at a very early stage in the pandemic and continue to follow the multi-agency advice through daily briefings to all of our staff.

"We would encourage the family to contact us directly to discuss any concerns which we will of course respond to.

"We can also confirm we have worked in a very positive partnership with our colleagues at the Northern Health Trust which has included significant support and expertise to ensure the very best response to this pandemic."

Belfast Telegraph